Asda is slashing its wine range by 15% and introducing a range of fine wines in what BWS category director David Stewart describes as its "most comprehensive and robust review of the wine category to date".

Asda, which under-trades in the sector by 26% [TNS Worldpanel 52 w/e 27 January 2008], hopes to boost sales by reducing its number of SKUs from 800 to 680, introducing a range of £10-plus wines to selected stores and increasing the number of wines under its Extra Special label from 30 to 45.

"We are looking at a range reduction across the board," said Stewart, justifying the range rationalisation. "What we are aiming for is to get rid of the duplications we have and to fill some gaps we've identified. So although we will be reducing the range in size, we will be increasing consumer choice."

Sparkling wine and Champagne have also been identified as a key growth opportunity having already experienced a boom in sales at the retailer of 51% by volume and 45% by value year-on-year, said Stewart.

The retailer was also looking at making the wine aisle less intimidating for shoppers, he said. "According to our research almost half of shoppers find buying wine an ordeal instead of a pleasure," Stewart said. However, Asda did not plan to follow Sainsbury's in shifting away from categorising wines purely by country, he said.

"We very much believe that consumers want to shop by country," he said. "They already find the category confusing and this method is something they are familiar and comfortable with."

The results of the category overhaul, including new merchandising and products, are scheduled to hit shelves this September.

Stewart, who took up the post a year ago, has also reshuffled the buying department, building a category development team and appointing two new product development managers.